Lessons From the Tide

 

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Low tide

 

I was driving down Longpoint Road today which crosses the marsh in several spots. It was high tide and the water encroached on the road causing the cars to spray water up onto each other and it got me thinking how the ebb and flow of the tide is much like the ebb and flow of time, history, and our personal lives.

When the tide is high we float and flow, think the roaring 20’s, record stock markets and reaching pinnacles in our careers. Those moments are great but hold on to your hat, the tide will turn and ebb, taking you down to the mud and reveal what lies beneath, think The Depression, the recession and days where nothing seems to go right.

While we may crave the high tide moments, I think we grow more from the low tide moments. When we are down to the mud, we can see what’s buried there with us. We see what needs to be fixed or addressed, but we also find nuggets of wisdom and treasures to carry with us as we rise again, think oysters and artifacts.

The biggest takeaway for me from this musing on the tide was it will always turn around. Enjoy the high points while they last, but don’t expect life to stay there. Learn all you can during the low points and know that if you hang on things will head back up.

I love this South Carolina Lowcountry life, I find inspiration every day from this beautiful place. At the moment I think I’m somewhere between low and high tide, I have learned I can’t turn it until it’s good and ready, but I can roll along with it and make the best of whatever stage it has me in.

In The Final Quarter

 

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Unpacking the Fall decor

It dawned on me today that we have just entered the final quarter of 2017 and on one hand, I can barely comprehend how fast this year has gone and on the other, what a crazy year it has been and I am ready to set my sights on 2018.

In the crazy that swirls around us these days, it is nice that certain seasonal traditions like college football, the local pumpkin patch opening and the leaves of the sycamore in the front yard turning color give continuity and reassurance that not all is lost.

Like the last quarter in a game, this is the time to make the most of what we have left of 2017, time is a-ticking. There is still a chance that the post-game analysis will be different than if the year ended today.

This had been a hectic and overwhelming last few months for me. I moved to a new school with a big chunk of the old faculty and we have been adjusting to a new building, new rooms, still getting arrivals of furniture and supplies and a new curriculum. It has been interrupted by a hurricane, with luckily minimum effects and personally, I have struggled through several weeks with a virus followed by a bout with pneumonia, only missing 4 days of work total, because I am stubborn like that and I absolutely hate writing sub plans when I don’t feel well, okay, actually anytime. Oh, yeah, I am writing a novel as well.

Despite all the setbacks now in the last quarter of my teaching career, I find myself re-energized and excited for this school year and the next few years.  I know things will settle into normal, although I’m beginning to realize normal is elusive and perhaps it should be.

Not that we need chaos and upheaval on a continuous basis, It is the times of change that lead to growth and give us renewal. Thank goodness for the seasons of the year, they give us a way to embrace those changes. So while it may seem rather shallow to some, (certainly not any southern girls), to change out the decor and dishes with the seasons, perhaps it’s just a way to symbolize and signal to us that it’s time to refresh, re-set and make the most of the season to come as we reflect and learn from the season that has come to a close. No worries, last season will come again, put it behind you and look forward.

It’s the last quarter of 2017 Y’all. Make your game plan and execute the best you can. There will be things that will bring you down, be ready with your best defense. Then get back up and get back to that line of scrimmage, who knows you might make a touchdown or a field goal. You may lose, but do it on your own terms. Until Midnight December thirty-first give it all you’ve got!

 

The Power of a Deep Clean

 

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A screen shot of a Facebook Post I wrote this week

Overall, our brush with Hurricane Irma was way more than expected here in the lowcountry, but thankfully my personal property was unscathed apart from a fence board dislodged and some minor branch damage.

In the days prior I had taken care to drag in all the plants, patio furniture, grill and the decorative items from the front and back of the house into the garage. So the day after the storm seemed the perfect time to drag out the power washer and clean the house, driveway, and patio while they were in a bare state.

For me, there are some chores I find exceptionally satisfying to complete. Primarily because the effort is immediately apparent and the results last for more than a day or two. Lawn mowing and power washing are two such chores. So I happily spend a few hours getting wet and dirty as my house and pavements were stripped of their layers of grime, pollen and green growth that clings to the surfaces hidden much of the day in the shadows.

I watched as the spray removed the layers to reveal surfaces renewed back to their original states and of course the writer in me thought about how this was a metaphor for renewal in our lives.

Renewal is a theme that has run through my thoughts on a regular basis. I love that we can choose to renew our lives by taking stock, re-evaluating and then making changes, big or small. Over time we gather our own grime; fears, drudgery, unhappiness, dissatisfaction etc. But we can choose to wash it away in a sense.

We can change careers, leave toxic relationships, relocate, renew commitments, make deeper connections with the people who matter in our lives, seek out education or guidance. We have the power to power wash our lives and I strongly believe we should do this on a regular basis.

We may accumulate jetsam and flotsam as we move through life, but we don’t have to carry it with us. When I spend too many days feeling like I’m chasing the wind and putting out fire after fire, I know it’s time to take stock and get myself back on track. I find that when I take the time to clean up my life the clarity of where I’m going next brings a peace and purpose

So I highly recommend power washing your life, no hose required.

 

Awaiting Irma’s Impact

 

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water supply including the fur babies

School has been canceled and I gratefully slept in this morning. For over a week Irma has been clamoring for my attention and I began by evaluating what I had in my hurricane supply kit and what needed to be replaced or supplemented. As she maintained her ferocity I made contact with my go to place in the upstate to make sure the fur babies and I would be welcome. I made a list of the things I would need to pack to take with and what I would need to to do in the house and yard, some of which is on the agenda today,

On Social media, people are already grumbling about the fact we didn’t have school today, and while I might have preferred working a least a half day today so it would be one less day to make up, I again am grateful for the time to secure the classroom yesterday afternoon and have a two day window to take care of the house, yard and evacuate if needed.

We are still twenty-four to thirty-six hours for knowing the actual impacts to expect, but the track last night and this morning indicate my evacuation place will get the same or possibly more impacts than the lowcountry. So I will press on with prep and be glad to be busy and not glued to the TV for every minor shift in track and wind. A decision to leave will have to be made by Sunday morning, regardless the house and yard will need to be prepared.

Having lived in the lowcountry for thirty-one years I am now a hurricane veteran, my first being the devastating Hugo in 1989. I was a victim of the evacuation debacle of Floyd, had a crazy diverted route home from Mathew and have hunkered down at home for others. So I know it is better to be over-prepared and overly cautious with things like canceling school. Storms will do what they do, no matter what science tells meteorologists with all their models. A last minute jog either direction or a sudden slowing down or speeding up is always a possibility and can drastically change the circumstances for impact.

By Tuesday the tale of Irma in the lowcountry will be written and we will know what the impact is. Somehow I don’t believe it will be as life altering as Hugo. Those of us who lived here for Hugo describe life in terms of before and after Hugo, much like the country does for 9/11. The images of trees snapped like toothpicks, the crumpled metal roof of the house I lived in balled up like a tissue tossed on the street, the water mark on the wall about as tall as me and the coating of pluff mud on most of my belongings are still as vivid today as twenty-eight years ago. I imagine Texas will view life that way with Harvey being the divide in time.

Hugo taught me one thing that has stayed with me, things are just things. If I have my family, including the fur babies and we are safe and healthy, then I have everything I need. Houses and stuff can be replaced, pictures are a sad loss, but the losing of them doesn’t erase memories. So if you are in the path of Irma it may impact your life with inconveniences and problems but as long as you have your life and those of your loved ones, you are blessed beyond measure.

 

 

Permission to Pause

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My last post was all about how as an educator, August is a month where my life is annually eclipsed by the setting up of a new school year. This year has been an eclipse of totality as I have moved along with many of my colleagues into a brand-new school to alleviate our community’s overcrowding. It has been exhausting and exhilarating and I am truly happy with the decision, but the extra work this year has caused me to examine the pace I’ve been keeping and make some adjustments.

Once I formulate a goal and make plans, I admit it is hard for me to adjust course. However the older I get, the better I become at flexibility and recognizing the need to pause once in awhile. We all need periodic check-ups to see if how we are spending our time and effort align with our values and our long-term goals. Life has also taught me that there are seasons where one area of our life must have the lion’s share of my attention.

I’m at that place now. I had planned when I started publishing books to publish two a year while working a full-time and a part-time job outside of writing.  I could be super woman, bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan and maintain, family, friends, a Southern Living pictorial worthy home and garden . . . I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

I am loving this fourth book I am working on, it is challenging me as a writer as the story takes place partially in a time frame prior to mine and deals with some serious matters for my characters. I had planned to have it come out right before the holiday season this year, but I realized in my current August eclipse, I would have to finish it with a rush job and that did not sit well with me.

The volume of my published work will grow over the next few decades naturally, I don’t need to rush it. Some years I will publish two a year, some years just one and that’s okay. At some point, writing will become my full-time work and then setting quantity goals might be more realistic.

By pausing I have room to breathe and give my story the attention it deserves. It will be ready by next spring and I will not lose my sanity in the process. If only I could pause the housework!

An Annual August Eclipse

 

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Protective gear ready for the solar/lunar event

Here in the zone of totality eclipse mania is reaching epic proportions. Locals have been warned to fill up the gas tank and stock the groceries as if a hurricane was approaching. Traffic is going to be a nightmare and I have planned to stay close to home. In the first two days of the school year, I was mandated to teach a lesson on the eclipse to prepare students midst all the back to school lessons that are so important for establishing routines for the classroom. I am excited, it is cool to be in a place with the optimum effects from this space phenomenon.

It is ironic to me that it is occurring in August because as an educator starting my 25th year of teaching every August has an eclipse in the zone of totality. It lasts way more than two minutes, more like four weeks.

Even when I can set up my classroom in July and get some planning done ahead of time, I still find that a new school year eclipses my life to the point of total darkness. I sometimes forget to pay bills, although one year I accidentally paid bills twice. House work and yard work is put on hold until I can’t ignore it any longer and then what gets done is the minimum. I realized last night I was out of hair towels, so a towel wash will happen today amid my lesson planning and sorting my kids into spelling groups (Yes it is a Saturday and I’m going to put in at least 6 hours of school work).My writing life, well, maintaining my weekly blog post commitment becomes a Herculean task and my novel work is on ice. I miss my characters, I miss escaping to their world, I know they will start waking me up out of the few hours I manage to sleep if I don’t carve out some time for them soon. Personal relationships also are eclipsed by the school year, I barely manage to connect with my parents and friends. My parent’s anniversary is every August and the flowers I ordered will be late because I didn’t remember to order them until last night and their anniversary falls on a Sunday. I even do crazy things like stick my keys in the fridge, leave all my toiletries at school on Meet the Teacher day or leave my lunch on the kitchen floor the first day of school.

By Labor day the sun will shine back into my life and I will find balance again. I will be in the rhythm of the school routine and carve out the writing time and the social time without the fog of heavy exhaustion. So this thing happening up in the sky, no big deal, I’m a veteran of an August eclipse.

 

The Sweet Side of Summer

WP_20170727_006Are you aware that it’s National Ice Cream month? As if we needed an excuse to enjoy a creamy cold treat in July. I am happy to recognize the designation and consume my fair share, you know, to be supportive . . .

I have my favorites, coffee, dulce de leche and vanilla, but I enjoy more exotic flavors like black raspberry truffle or ginger. I recently discovered Red Velvet Cake ice cream, win-win for me, I love ice cream and I love red velvet cake. I even enjoy soft serve.

I have so many happy memories associated with ice cream. My Papa, my mother’s daddy used to take us down to get a soft serve in a small town down the road. If we ate coffee ice cream at the house, he liked to top it with cool whip. Often I would be sent out into the part of the house called the summer kitchen where there was a big trunk-like freezer to fetch the ice cream and or the cool whip. I was short, okay I still am, but imagine me kid short. So, I had to have a strategy to get them out.  I would lift the lid and peer over the top to see where they were. Then I would back up, take off at a run, launch myself onto the freezer’s edge, balancing on my belly. I would rock in, grab the ice cream and rock back out. Hard work, but always worth it. My parents and I have also made a Christmas tradition of getting our own pint of ice cream to enjoy for Christmas dessert, not eaten in one sitting, to clarify.

I can pass up a lot of desserts. But I don’t think I have ever turned down a bowl of ice cream.  It makes me smile and instantly puts me in relaxation mode. Let’s face it, a bowl of ice cream almost requires a meditative kind of concentration. You can’t text, or computer surf or much else. It takes a little effort to stir and smooth your ice cream so it is not too stiff or too soft and time is of the essence. The delight of the cool on your tongue and then the sliding down the throat. It is a simple but exquisite pleasure.

It’s a shame that I can’t call it a healthy food, so it does not find a place in my freezer on a regular basis. I have decided that when I get to be eighty, I am going to allow myself a small bowl nightly. For now, it is on occasion out on the town, or summertime in my freezer and of course Christmas.

I savor every creamy spoonful and that is something I think we could apply to other things in life. Savor and enjoy.

Shared Blood, Shared Love

 

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My cousin Susan and I somewhere off the coast of Maine Early 1970’s.

I have five cousins, three on my mother’s side and two on my father’s side. But only one close to my age. My cousin Susan is a little over two years older than I am, the rest are many years older or many years younger. As an only child, I was fascinated by the fact she had siblings. She is the closest to a sibling I will ever have.

Growing up in a military family,  we only saw each other every few summers and several Christmases but the time together is vivid in my memory. I worshiped her as older, I was jealous of her for living way closer to our grandparents and, I loved those magical times when it was the two of us connected and conspiratorial.

One Christmas, we convinced out Papa to let us cut down a small tree from his property and put it in the bedroom we were sharing. We decorated it and tried to convince everyone we should get up at five a.m for Christmas morning.

There were summers searching for sea glass in the coves of small islands off the coast of Maine. Trips to the beach and lots of boating. There was the two of us in our Laura Ashley dresses for our grandparent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary.

We did not always see eye to eye, I am sure sometimes I came off as the pesky younger cousin to entertain when she would rather be with her friends, like in middle school and high school. Then there was that time I got frustrated following her lead in our play and I dropped the piano key covers down on her hands. I instantly regretted it and I think it was the only time I did something mean-spirited towards someone, I imagine much like a sibling. That one moment still flashes in my mind whenever I want to lash out at someone in anger and it keeps me from acting.

As we have led our adult lives living in different states, our lives have been more apart than together, but this summer we made the effort to reconnect. For me, it was a renewal of that bond we have through blood and our shared love of water. We had this reunion at her beach house in Nags Head.

I was reminded of how little family I have and how I need to take more care to nurture those bonds. I have always lived far from family, so it seems natural, but as we age and especially as we see our parent’s age, we need each other more than we used to. After all, family shares a narrative unique to them.  Simply put she is truly the only one in our generation who knows our story.

I hope we will continue to make the effort to see each other more often. We both have property near beaches and there are plenty of them between us. Salt water and blood flow through us and our shared history. That with love will be the tie that binds.

 

 

A Glass Ceiling Not To Break

 

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The glass ceiling in my parent’s conservatory

This is not a politcal piece or a feminist piece, so if that is what you are expecting from the title you might be disappointed. This is about the magic of a glass ceiling. A canopy with a view.

I’m currently at my parent’s house, a mostly annual summer visit. I enjoy spending time with them and in the beautiful part of Virginia in which they reside. It is a respite from the daily grind and the dogs and. I love the hilly two-mile route we take for our morning walks.

I especially enjoy the glass room on the back of the house that my parent’s refer to as the conservatory. The ceiling and the walls on three sides are glass. Within those three glass walls are many windows that can open and the space also has a heating and cooling unit, so it truly can be used year-round.

The light in the conservatory is bright but filtered by a great canopy of trees that hang overhead. I love to lay on the sofa out there and strare up between the branches to catch sight of the blue and the clouds floating by. If this were my house I would be tempted to make this my writing studio.

The room feels airy and tree-house like. The light changes as the day passes and you feel connected to the nature that surrounds the space. Squirrels sometimes drop nuts on the roof and that an be a little unsettling, but I love watching the birds, especially the cardinals that flit among the branches and the bird feeder.

This is a room that calms and soothes. It is also a great place to take a nap. I’d like to say I have done some incredible writing in this space, but I have to admit I like to just be in there and daydream or read. Perhaps if I got to enjoy it more than a week each year, I might be able to get down to business in there.

We all need a space in our homes that is a respite from the world. A place to recharge and spark our creativity. At home I would say my room I call the library (because it has tall bookcases full of books and two leather chairs) is that space. Although I find the beach and the waterways through the lowcountry to be powerful places to rejuvenate and inspire.

Here under this canopy of glass I can’t help but feel all is right with the world.

This is one glass ceiling I hope will never be shattered.

 

 

If you cross the line, tap the roof!

 

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Tapping the roof at the South Carolina/North Carolina Border

A number of years ago I traveled with some of my Charleston friends to Sewanee, where two of our newly wedded friends were attending the Episcopal seminary. It was a memorable trip for a variety of reasons.

For one, road tripping with friends is always an adventure and it was enjoyable sharing the journey. It was a glorious fall weekend and the scenery was spectacular. We also attended a soul stirring service on campus. But the most memorable part of the trip was learning about a custom practiced by those who travel to and from Sewanee. When you leave campus, you tap the roof to summon your guardian angel to travel with you. The idea is that Sewanee is a little piece of heaven so when there you are protected, but out in the big wide world, a little extra protection is needed.

This struck me as a charming tradition and I adopted it as a personal custom when I travel. Now I suppose to some this may mark me as eccentric, but I’m okay with that. Aren’t we all eccentric to some degree? Plus writers should be even more so. Of course I don’t live on the hallowed ground of Sewanee, but I do live in the hallowed state of South Carolina. The lowcountry has a beauty I would equate with Eden, and the people of South Carolina have loving, beautiful souls, just look at how we handled the Mother Emanuel shooting. We are not a perfect people and there are ugly things in our past, but we continue to grow and improve by loving our fellow citizens.

Okay, you know I love South Carolina, it is my little piece of heaven on earth. So, back to my personal custom. When I leave South Carolina, at the border in the car, or as the plane takes off, I make the sign of the cross and tap the roof. I suppose on the plane I really tap the underside of the storage compartment, but that will have to suffice, I don’t mind being eccentric, but I don’t want anyone to think I’m crazy by standing up on an airplane and jumping up to tap the roof.

My guardian angel safely on-board, I roam away from home with some peace of mind. I also have a return tradition. When I re-enter South Carolina, I kiss my finger tips and tap the roof, telling my guardian angel thank you and take a break, we are home.